Calendars reflect priorities. They reflect what an individual or an organization chooses to do with its time – a precious commodity. Most churches have a master calendar that contains all ministry events, facility reservations, service times, and ongoing ministries to its membership and others. Churches have leadership groups whose responsibility it is to coordinate these activities. An important task in planning is to ensure as little overlap as possible. The last thing a church needs is to schedule multiple ministry opportunities on the same day that cause the people to have to choose. There is another calendar, a calendar often overlooked by churches – the community calendar. Local communities have a calendar that lists events, news, festivals, and other functions unique to them. Town and city councils publish these calendars far enough ahead to the ensure the residents can participate.
Why does this matter? For far too long the church and its community have been content to exist and function as if they have no need for each other. This is simply not true. If a church believes their community matters, the two should work together as often as possible. The church needs the community. The community is the place and the people into which God has planted the church as agents of light and ministers of grace. God has called His people to their community to flavor and influence it positively with the good news of the gospel. The community needs the church. Whether they acknowledge it or not does not negate the truth. The community needs the influence and care the local church offers. The community needs the church to serve it and make a difference.
Please hear me closely. I am not advocating allowing the secular community to determine the actions and direction of the church. I do not believe that would be wise. I am certain the community would not allow the church to determine its activities and direction. Does the church have a responsibility to be involved in the life of their local community? Absolutely. Can both parties benefit when this happens? No doubt.
I have given a great deal of thought to this and the what I have found has shaped my ministry philosophy. When planning ministry opportunities, the church should consider what is happening in the community at that time. The purpose is to determine the possibility of the church’s involvement. When there are special events in the community, the church would do well to seek ways to involve itself. As the church involves itself in the everyday life of the community, trust is built and relationships are formed.
The goal for the church as it relates to the community is to be an agent of change and hope through the message of the gospel of Christ. When the community sees the church cares about the people and their future with no strings attached, credibility is earned. Must the community acknowledge the church for the church to be credible? Of course not. Jesus Christ established the New Testament Church and needs no secular approval. However, the old saying is true here, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Credibility is a bridge by which the gospel travels. Consistent involvement is necessary if we hope to make a difference and a lasting mark on the community where the church has been planted. Why compete when we can cooperate?
I hope this collection of thinkers and ministries will further challenge you to live an on-mission lifestyle. Enjoy.
Read: I recommend The Hole in Our Gospel; What Does God Expect of Us? by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision. It is the true story of a corporate CEO who gave up worldly success for something far more satisfying. God’s calling on his life removed him from his corner office at one America’s most prestigious companies and allowed him to walk with the poorest of the poor in our world. His journey demonstrates how the gospel – the whole gospel – was meant to change lives and make people whole in Christ.
Follow: Tim Rice. Tim is the Missions Mobilization Director for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. He is passionate about assisting individuals and churches to live missionally and engage their communities, state, and the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know Tim personally and you will be both encouraged and challenged by what he shares with others. You can find him at @timricesc
Get to Know: The Sunshine Girls – a weekly outreach ministry to women who work in the Adult Entertainment Industry in Savannah, Georgia. Their goal is to shine the life-changing light of the Gospel into these dark places. The mission of the organization revolves around establishing relationships and opportunities for another way of life. You can learn more about them here. Pray for the work these women are doing in some very hard and dark places. I am thankful to know one of these Sunshine Girls personally.
My favorite time of the church year is less than a week away: Vacation Bible School. Hard work is on the menu this week as we make final preparations. This week of hard work prepares us for a week of hard work of a different kind. I enjoy everything about this week. I enjoy watching the sanctuary and other rooms being transformed from their traditional look theme-related masterpieces. I enjoy the opportunity to work closely with teachers and other volunteers as they prepare for the arrival of our students. I enjoy having kids running up and down the hallways. I enjoy the noise that children generate when they’re excited and having a good time. I enjoy being there when the first student arrives and watching the last one leave. I enjoy having all age groups (Kindergarten – Adults) on campus at the same time. I enjoy interacting with our students. I enjoy talking with them, laughing with them, and hopefully praying with them.
Our theme this year – Galactic Starveyors; Discovering the God of the Universe – is, in my opinion, one of the best I’ve seen in long time. Focusing on Colossians 1:15-16, our students will look to the heavens and discover the wonder among all wonders – that the God who created everything there is – the knowable and the unknowable, visible and the invisible – desires a personal relationship with them. Their journey starts with a look at how God’s relationship with man had its beginning. They will then discover how that relationship was broken through rebellion and disobedience. Next, they will learn of the promise of restoration through Jesus Christ and how that restoration challenges and equips us to live for Him every day as we look to our future home with Him. The emphasis on a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ is desperately needed today and I am thankful Lifeway chose to highlight it during the Bible study rotation this summer.
I am thankful for the many voices, resources, institutions, and ministries who are assisting the local church to live out a missional lifestyle. The purpose of Missional Monday is to raise awareness and foster conversations (whether here or elsewhere) around the need for the New Testament churches to be missionaries where they are. I regularly share my own thoughts about this subject, but mine is not the only one. Because we are involved in kingdom work, I want to connect the readers here to others who are speaking on the subject of missional living. I hope this collection of thinkers and ministries will further challenge you to live mission lifestyles. Enjoy.
Read: I recommend Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission by Larry E. McCrary. As God calls missionaries to the field, they develop the necessary skill-sets for a cultural translation of the Gospel. Tradecraft pulls back the curtain on tools once accessible only to full-time Christian workers – tools that will enable the local church to be more effective in its ministry to the community.
Follow: Henry Criss. Henry is the Lead Pastor of Ridgeland Baptist Church in Ridgeland, SC. His approach to the revitalization work he has been called to is encouraging and insightful. You can follow him here – @HenryCriss.
Get to Know: Pure Water, Pure Love. PWPL is an initiative of the National Women’s Missionary Union, an auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention. The primary goal of PWPL is to provide missionaries with water filters and the people they serve with wells that offer clean water, free of disease and contamination. PWPL provides thousands of water filters to missionary families and helps fund clean water projects. You can read more here.
A few weeks ago, Terri and I were shopping along the waterfront area of downtown Beaufort. While walking along Bay Street, we happened across as a little storefront, Go Fish® Clothing and Jewelry. The name captured my attention and we went inside. We noticed there were many kinds of handmade items from artisans all around world, including hand-crafted wooden animals, blown glass figurines, hand-made clothing, and all types of jewelry. Alongside each display was a portrait of the family who had made the product, as well as a description of the country in which the family lives. Go Fish® purchases the items that are sold in stores from the indigenous peoples of developing nations. The prices that are paid for the items are never argued. Merchandise is bought at the family’s asking price. The mission of Go Fish® is to give the indigenous people dignity and respect by highlighting their creativity and skill, while providing a sustainable livelihood for the family. I found it refreshing that amid stores selling everything from swimsuits to real estate, a company living out its missional calling exists. You can read more about Go Fish® and their work here.
It is important for church leaders to know why they engage in community ministry. This means churches must understand what drives them outside the church walls and into the neighborhoods, businesses, and schools of the community. When you combine the command to pray for the welfare and peace of the city (Jeremiah 29:7) and the commission to be witnesses for the gospel wherever we are (Acts 1:8), an important truth emerges: the church has a responsibility to those who are not a part of it. With that being said, ministry in our communities is difficult. Ministry in our communities can be messy. Ministry in our communities can be time-consuming. Ministry in our communities has a financial component to it as well. As a result, members of the church wonder, if only to themselves, “What are we getting out of this deal?” This question, at the basement level, is one of reimbursement.
There is a danger associated with the church expecting reimbursement from the community for ministry on their behalf. To reimburse means to “make repayment for expenses or loss incurred.” If the church sees community ministry as a loss from the very beginning then certainly there will be cries for reimbursement. If the church sees community ministry as a means to gain materially from the people then certainly there will be demands for repayment and compensation. How might a church seek reimbursement from the community?
- Filling a seat in the sanctuary. Churches may take an intentional or unintentional stance such as “we went to them now they need to come to us” stance. A common question asked by congregants is “Where are the people we have been ministering to?” The easiest measurement of ministry success is people filling a seat in the sanctuary. Although the easiest measurement, it is not always the correct measurement. Ministry is an investment. It may require multiple engagements before the gospel is understood and embraced. Churches must be comfortable with the fact that beneficiaries of their ministry may never connect to their church body. This is not easy to accept.
- Filling the offering plate. Churches may also take an intentional or unintentional stance such as “we gave to them financially now they need to give back to us”. Our world has conditioned us to expect something in return for services rendered. The old saying goes, “there is no such thing as a free ride”. This would be true if you viewed your community exclusively from the business standpoint, seeing them as consumers only. Is it true that your community may take a consumer approach to the church? Absolutely. The church has to resist the temptation to “even the books” and fully embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ where we’re reminded that to whom much is given, much is required.
Ministry in which the gospel is communicated and delivered, regardless of the acceptance of it, can never be viewed as a “loss incurred”. If there is no loss incurred then there is no need of reimbursement. Church leaders, the economic laws of supply and demand and return on investment are measured much differently in the church. Be generous. Give what you have.
Several months ago I was sitting with Shane Olsen, lead pastor of Decibel Church and Mike Green, lead pastor of the The Link at lunch. I do not remember the purpose of that meeting. Perhaps we were debriefing a past event or planning a future event. I simply can’t remember. I do remember that out conversation turned toward our city. As the discussion went on, one question seemed to emerge: How can our churches work together in order to show God’s love toward our city? We had already been serving our community in our own individual contexts. Collectively we were all part of large community-wide, non-denominational Thanksgiving event that fed hundreds and hundreds of families. Several questions helped to frame the above question.
What more could we do together?
Is once a year enough to make a real and lasting impact?
What resources could we pool and leverage to make a difference?
What is the best option for long-term and lasting impact?
It was out of this discussion that Love Gave was born.
So, what is Love Gave? Well, there is no formal mission and purpose statement. I guess you could call it an emphasis, a focus, or perhaps collaboration. My prayer is that it becomes a movement. We decided that over a 40 period (October 11th – November 22nd) that we would make it a priority to serve our city in a visible display of God’s love. During this 40 day period, each church will choose their individual emphasis. Port Royal Baptist will see 40 Days of Community. Collectively we will come together for two main community events in under-served areas; one in Beaufort (October 24th) and one in Port Royal (November 7th). I believe a fundamental principle in community ministry is to ask agencies and city leaders how the church can help them in order to cut down on duplication and focus resources. We met with the mayor of Beaufort and Port Royal’s town manager to share our vision and seek guidance. Both recognized the need and welcomed the help. There are at least three goals we hope to attain through these events. First, it is our desire to show the cities of Beaufort and Port Royal a visible witness of God’s love through sacrifice and service. Second, it is our desire to show the community how beautiful and how strong the Body of Christ is. Lastly, it is our desire to give at least 1000 volunteer hours to our cities on each of the two city ministry days. Although the details of each city ministry day are still coming together, we do know a few things for sure. The Beaufort ministry day will consist of park clean-up and painting, renovation work for a needy homeowner, and a carnival/block party in the Greene Street area. The Port Royal ministry day will consist of skate park repair/painting and other work in Veterans Memorial Park.
I would ask that you pray. Pray that our cities will see God’s love lived out in practical ways and that hearts will be softened to the gospel as a result. Pray for the approximately 10-12 churches that will be involved in Love Gave. Pray that their congregations will be strengthened as a result of serving their community. Please pray that this truly would be a movement that would be embraced as we partner with our cities to love the people who make them up. I would also ask that you volunteer. I would pray that you might embrace this opportunity to “be” the church.